Depression is one of the most common mental health problems today. It is not just a state of unhappiness or sadness. It is a true disease. The cause seems to be related to a decrease in chemicals that transmit signals in the brain. Having a family history of depression, alcoholism, or suicide increases the risk. Chronic illness, chronic pain, migraine headaches and high emotional stress also increase the risk.

Depression is something we tend to recognize in others, but may have a hard time seeing in ourselves. It can show in many physical and emotional ways:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Over-eating

  • Not being able to sleep

  • Sleeping too much

  • Tiredness not related to physical exertion

  • Restlessness or irritability

  • Slowness of movement or speech

  • Feeling depressed or withdrawn

  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed

  • Trouble concentrating, poor memory, trouble making decisions

  • Thoughts of harming or killing oneself, or thoughts that life is not worth living

  • Low self-esteem

The treatment for depression may include both medicine and psychotherapy. Antidepressants can reduce suffering and can improve the ability to function during the depressed period. Therapy can offer emotional support and help you understand emotional factors that may be causing the depression.

Home care

  • On-going care and support helps people manage this disease.  Find a healthcare provider and therapist who meet your needs. Seek help when you feel like you may be getting ill.

  • Be kind to yourself. Make it a point to do things that you enjoy (gardening, walking in nature, going to a movie, etc.). Reward yourself for small successes.

  • Take care of your physical body. Eat a balanced diet (low in saturated fat and high in fruits and vegetables). Exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Even mild-moderate exercise (like brisk walking) can make you feel better.

  • Avoid alcohol, which can make depression worse.

  • Take medicine as prescribed.

  • Tell each of your healthcare providers about all of the prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take. Certain supplements interact with medicines and can result in dangerous side effects. Ask your pharmacist when you have questions about drug interactions.

  • Talk with your family and trusted friends about your feelings and thoughts. Ask them to help you recognize behavior changes early so you can get help and, if needed, medicine can be adjusted.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if you:

  • Have suicidal thoughts, a suicide plan, and the means to carry out the plan

  • Have trouble breathing

  • Are very confused

  • Feel very drowsy or have trouble awakening

  • Faint or lose consciousness

  • Have new chest pain that becomes more severe, lasts longer, or spreads into your shoulder, arm, neck, jaw or back

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Feeling extreme depression, fear, anxiety, or anger toward yourself or others

  • Feeling out of control

  • Feeling that you may try to harm yourself or another

  • Hearing voices that others do not hear

  • Seeing things that others do not see

  • Can’t sleep or eat for 3 days in a row

  • Friends or family express concern over your behavior and ask you to seek help

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© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.